- ECEEE report – A capability approach to smart local energy systems: aiming for ‘smart and fair’
This paper was accepted and presented at the ECEEE conference in June 2021 – a leading conference on energy efficiency.
This paper describes early experience of using a conceptual framework of “capabilities” to understand the propensity of actors (households, businesses, flexibility providers) and communities to participate in and benefit from a Smart Local Energy System (SLES).
Having outlined some basic features of capability theory and examples of its application, we offer a description of the SLES concept, then outline how a ‘capability lens’ can be applied as an analytic tool in designing policies and actions that are sensitive to issues of energy equity. We do this through applying an elaboration of the capability lens developed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy to two smart grid opportunities under consideration in “Project LEO” a major demonstration of prototype SLES mechanisms and market arrangements underway in Oxfordshire, UK: Vehicle-to-Grid charging and domestic Demand Side Response from small scale applications (e.g. heat pumps, smart appliances) connected at the grid edge.
There is a discussion of how capability to adopt these systems has implications for differential access to markets for flexibility and therefore impacts on energy equity. We then argue that a capability lens can be applied not only to individuals, households or organisations, but to communities and systems and considers how inequity might be addressed in terms of actor, community and system capability.